Sunset Photography Tip: Don’t Shoot The Sunset (updated)

Duck Crossing the Marsh at Sunset in the Everglades.

I want to share what I’ve learned from great photographers as well as from my own experience in capturing great shots at sunset.

Don’t shoot the sunset. Shoot what it illuminates!

While it sounds counterintuitive, believe me, you can achieve unbelievably gorgeous images if you realize that the sunset itself isn’t the star of the show. It’s the lighting that the sunset makes available to you with all its contrastiness and color range that really make great images possible.

Sunset from beach, offset from Sun
Sunset from beach, offset from Sun

So, get your tripod out of that dusty closet and set your camera up at a great location to see the sunset. The location should have interesting things in the foreground/background — sand up close is great, as are piers, trees, birds, cliffs, ships, huts, tidal pools, etc.

Early Sunset Over the Gulf from Naples
Early Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico. Shot with neutral density filter and long exposure time.

As the suns starts setting, look away from the setting sun to what it’s illuminating and shoot away. Continue to shoot, from early sunset to late sunset, everything that looks interesting in the light cast by the sunset.

OK, you can shoot the sunset as well to get it out of your system.

Visit my website to view my sunset photographs. You can order prints or downloads of these and other images from my various galleries.

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